“Search Inside Yourself” Mindful Leadership Program

After the 2-day live Search Inside Yourself program, I would define mindful
leadership as the ability to 1) sense and understand the feelings of oneself as well as others; 2) act and speak with compassion of the motivations and goals of others and 3) lead a meaningful life. The road map used to guide the program is a very helpful visualization highlighting that a number of components build on each other and eventually lead toward mindful leadership. From bottom up, the components are: mindfulness, self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy and leadership. Mindfulness and self-awareness are the essential skills that lead to self-management and further, empathy. The first day was focus on building this foundation and fostering good attention to our body and feelings to prevent us from operating on “autopilot”. Only when we can attend to ourselves can we attend to other people as well.

I was particularly inspired by the ‘motivation’ module on the second day: there was a journaling activity to explore our core values and a 5-year vision activity. The prior draws core values from people I admire, which is incredibly helpful for identifying my core values to have them guide me through difficult conversations and conflicts with a clear, good intention. The second one is identical to the Zingerman’s visioning activity I participated in earlier; this time, it was very interesting to hear about the different areas of focus in the vision from people from various stages of life. For example, while my vision was primarily focused on how I navigate the workspace and professional life, an older lady I talked to was pondering “what does being alive mean to me?”. Most importantly, I got to experience the power of the emotional intelligence of a community. I was genuinely encouraged to care about myself and to explore all the best that I’ve got in my future. If this is not mindful leadership, I do not know what is.The ‘meaning’ in a meaningful life, which I named earlier, is not complete without bringing a meaning to other people’s life.

Throughout the program we practiced a number of types of listening: mindful listening, where we pay our full attention to the speaker without responding; and later, generous listening, where we pay attention to the speaker while also asking guiding questions that explores the speaker’s story and feelings more. This is such an importance skill to be reinforced again and again—it gives the speaker the deserved respect and makes the speaker feel important. It is the key to ‘leading with compassion’, a newer idea to me raised in the program. When handling a challenging conversation, the idea encourages us to consider the narrative of both ourselves and the other side, in terms of content (what happened?), feeling and identity (am I a good person?). Then, with these considerations, aim to solve the problem at hand rather than pushing away responsibilities. A mindful leader is therefore personable rather than perceived as on the top of hierarchy and unapproachable.

By: Ariel Huang

Defining Mindful Leadership

After participating in the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute’s conference and completing the 28-day mindfulness challenge, I’ve found that a key part of mindful leadership is the ability to calmly and appropriately experience and respond to emotions. This kind of emotional intelligence is built largely through experience, which is mostly a function of time, but can also be cultivated through careful and deliberate practice. In my case, as a young leader with relatively little life experience, this deliberate practice is essential to developing my emotional intelligence and responding to situations with clarity, focus, and compassion.

My experience with the mindfulness challenge was mostly pleasant. Each day I would complete a short meditation, delivered to my inbox. These were guided meditations ranging from one to ten minutes long. I only missed a few days of practice, and when I did, I made up for it by completing two in the next day. These experiences were ones that I looked forward to, taking a moment to settle, usually at home at the end of the day, but sometimes in the morning, or before starting work, to bring my focus and attention to the practice.

As a fairly active and rapid thinker, it can be hard for me to focus on one thing at a time. This came through during the mediations, when my mind would start to wander, either back into the past or towards the future, or towards some distraction: a sight, smell, or sound that would keep me from focusing. An earlier version of myself might have scolded or got angry, but I remembered to approach the practice with curiosity and kindness. This allowed me to acknowledge the fact that my attention was distracted, accept it, and bring my focus back to the meditation, usually through a deliberate breath. This is small thing, but it is representative of the emotional maturity that I am developing over the course of this mindfulness practice.

In more high-stakes context, the simple act of acknowledging and accepting emotions will allow me to clearly, carefully, thoughtfully, and respectful present my ideas and opinions without getting overly “caught up” in the emotional tension of a situation. Rather than being defensive, I will be open, receptive, and try to understand how the emotional context of a situation is informing the decisions that various actors are making.

This has allowed me to stay calm in situations that a previous version of myself might have gotten frustrated in. Through mindfulness, I feel I am connected to a broader human context in which all people deserve peace and compassion. It can be hard to retain this feeling when someone cuts me off in traffic or I feel something unjust has occurred, but I still bring to mind these well-wishes, or, if I can’t do that, draw my attention inward to what I can control: my breathing and my body.

The grounding of the body and the breath is an essential mindfulness principle, as breathing creates a touchpoint for my attention when situations are challenging or overwhelming. This allows me to buy time and emotional distance from a difficult situation, and gain the physiological benefits of calm and composure that come through taking deep, deliberate breaths.

As hard as it is to believe, even for me, I believe my SIYLI experience and the 28-day challenge is creating a lasting impact in my life, informing me on the rationale and benefits of mindfulness. I have been able to utilize a number of integrated practices in my daily life, allowing me to be calm,composed,curious, and kind with myself, others, and the world around me.

By: Ethan Hopper

University of Michigan Kidney Disease Screening and Awareness Program

The Kidney Disease Screening and Awareness Program (KDSAP) is a student run organization that originated at Harvard University in 2008. Since then, KDSAP has spread to fourteen other colleges and universities, including University of Michigan. Our chapter’s two main goals are student professional development and community outreach. We provide opportunities for pre-health students to hear from healthcare professionals and learn about basic renal physiology. We also partner with local physicians and community organizations to provide free kidney screenings and health education to underserved populations.

This year, our executive board made a goal to coordinate double the number of screenings as we had in past years, but we were limited by the cost of medical supplies. However, with the grant support from the Barger Leadership Institute we were able to achieve our goal; we held five screenings over the course of the year during which we provided free health services to over 150 community members.

Over the course of the academic year, we held screenings at the Ann Arbor YMCA, the Islamic Institute of America in Dearborn, the First Spanish Baptist Church in Detroit, the Brown African Methodist Episcopal Chapel in Ypsilanti, and Washtenaw Community College. At each of these screenings, community members were able to complete a health history form, have their blood pressure, blood glucose, and BMI measured, have their urine screened, and speak privately with a volunteering physician for free. Over 60 KDSAP members (many of which were new to the organization) participated in trainings and performed these measurements at the screening events. This gave many pre-health students a chance to gain exposure to the healthcare field while simultaneously serving community members who do not have regular access to healthcare.

We also held several other educational events for club members and elementary students from the local community. For World Kidney Day we had a University of Michigan nephrologist and kidney transplant recipient speak to club members about their personal experiences working with kidney disease. We also partnered with the Wolverine Health Sciences program to put on a kidney-related science event at Angell Elementary School.

Out of all of the BLI habits, the ones we used the most were ‘Engage the World’, and ‘Build a Team’. ‘Engage the World’ was a central habit of our project because a large part of our organization’s mission is to reach out to underserved communities. In past years we had only been able to hold screenings in Ann Arbor and Livonia—both of which are reasonably wealthy areas. This year our executive board reached out to many new and underserved communities including the Islamic Institute of America in Dearborn, the First Spanish Baptist Church in Detroit, and the Brown African Methodist Episcopal Chapel in Ypsilanti. We have already begun coordinating future screenings at these locations and hope that we can continue these partnerships for many years to come.

‘Build a Team’ was another essential habit to our project. Given that our organization is still relatively new to University of Michigan, we have still be sorting out many of the nuances of managing an organization with so many moving parts and tasks. Our executive board has had to work effectively as a team in order to expand our organization to include more club members and hold double the number of screenings as we had in past years. We held bi-weekly meetings

in which discussed our upcoming screenings and club activities and supported each other in completing the tasks assigned to each executive board position.

We are incredibly thankful that BLI gave us the chance to grow our organization this year! We invite other BLI fellows to join KDSAP in the fall and help us hold many more screenings and educational events during the upcoming academic year.


By: Lauren Weinberg

UBUNTU, “I am, because we are”

African Students Association’s 21st Annual Culture Show By: Tosin Adeyemi

This year, the African Students Association (ASA) at the University of Michigan looked to Southern Africa for inspiration for the theme of their 21st Annual Culture Show, Ubuntu. Ubuntu loosely translates to, “I am, because we are” in the Zulu language of South Africa. The culture show took place March 15th, 2019 from 7-9pm in the Michigan Theater.

The theme Ubuntu was expressed through four different scenes: society, community, family, and individual. Each scene incorporated fashion and performance. For the fashion component of the show, students from U of M in Ann Arbor, as well as students from Eastern Michigan, modeled clothing from different regions of the continent. Clothing included floor length skirts, dresses, pants, and more! Under the leadership of ASA’s model coordinators, students perfected their walks through weekly practices on campus.

In addition to stunning model scenes, the show featured a variety of performances. In the scene community, there were two performances. First, Bichini Bia Congo Dance Theater Company, which performs Congolese dance, graced the stage with two dancers and one drummer. The troupe was found by Jean-Claude Biza, an instructor at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater & Dance. This scene also featured the Michigan Gospel Chorale, who sang the song, “Siyahamba”. Their melodious performance left attendees in awe.

In the scene family, the Amala Dancers performed, which has consistently been a crowd favorite. ASA is especially grateful for Amala Dancers, because they have performed at numerous ASA events, including Our Global Africa and Charity Ball for the 2018-2019 school year. Finally, in the individual scene, there was spoken word as well as ASA’s first solo music artist, Asante. Aldo Pando Girard during his spoken word piece touched upon his multiple racial identities and Asante sang about his Ghanaian background. Asante is a University of Michigan alum.
Left: Asante (@mindofasante (Twitter/Instagram) & mindofasante.com)

Overall, ASA’s executive board members are happy about the outcome of the event. The event would not have been possible without all of the students involved, and generous financial support. We want to express our gratitude to Barger Leadership Institute (BLI) for financial support, as well as a framework for developing leadership habits throughout the event planning and execution.

One habit that we extensively utilized was Collect, Combine, and Create, in order to assemble different elements of the show into a cohesive, vibrant evening of culture for attendees. For example, board members on the fashion and styling committees collected fabrics originating from different countries and combined them in ways unique to each model. Also, members on finance committee combined different specialty items into bags for our VIP attendees. The biggest items were bags of plantain chips from Frita Batidos, which were secured via email with the manager. BLI’s emphasis on professional development translated into professionally reaching out to the manager inquiring about sponsorship. Thus, the impact of BLI on ASA members’ growth was not confined to leadership.

One habit that we wish we utilized more was expect challenges. Although we knew having the show the Friday after spring break would bring challenges, there were more challenges than we expected. These included coordinating performances, given many students could not make dress rehearsal because of class, attracting students, and stage managing during the show. Nevertheless, reflection upon what went well and what did not go well is invaluable information for ASA’s next executive board.

We would like to acknowledge the following performers, as well as provide links to more photos and a video of the show:

Bichini Bia Congo

Michigan Gospel Chorale

AMALA Dancers

Aldo Pando Girard (spoken word)

Asante (music performance)

Photo gallery here,  and video here!

Overall, we were extremely pleased with how the show came together, and are excited to see what the next executive board has in store for the 22nd Annual Culture Show. Thank you again BLI for your generous support, and we look forward to working with you in the future.

The 2018-2019 ASA Executive Board

Giselle Uwera, Maxwell Otiato Megan Manu, Temitope Oyelade Selina Asamoah, Jeremy Atuobi, Ihunanya Muruako, Kingsley Enechukwu, Tosin Adeyemi


By: Tosin Adeyemi

All photo credits to Benji Bear Photography.

Climate Action Movement Panel and Discussion

We knew that something needed to be done about climate action on campus. That’s why we created the Climate Action Movement Panel and Discussion: because we wanted to engage the community in Climate Action.

This event consisted of a panel discussing previous climate action in Ann Arbor and a group discussion to produce tangible, actionable goals to improve sustainability measures in Ann Arbor. We realized that the best way to work toward stronger climate goals was to receive input from the community. We worked with both student groups and community groups to crowdsource goals that students, University administration, and local government could take to improve environmental sustainability.

Since we will all be impacted by climate in the future, it is important to us to start a movement for climate action in a united front – that was the aim of this event.

By Devan O’Toole